New Report Highlights Work of Schools, Employers and University to Raise Social Mobility in Rural England

The impact of a ‘unique’ partnership between local schools, employers and a university on the educational opportunities available to young people in rural England is highlighted in a new report on social mobility.

The Social Mobility Pledge Opportunity Action Plan, published today (Tuesday 3 November 2020), describes the connections between educational institutions and food industry companies in Holbeach, Lincolnshire, as ‘an entire ecosystem of opportunity’ which has helped to transform the career aspirations and educational options open to local children over the past decade.

The Lincolnshire Educational Trust, an academy trust of local primary, secondary and special educational needs schools based in Holbeach and surrounding villages in South Holland, is sponsored by the University of Lincoln, UK.

The University also operates a major education, training, and industrial R&D facility in Holbeach – the National Centre for Food Manufacturing, which serves the skills and innovation needs of the UK’s £110bn food and drinks sector. The academy trust was created in 2011 to help better connect local schools with this global industry, and create a new pipeline of talent for the sector.

The Social Mobility Pledge was set up in 2018 by the Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, then Secretary of State for Education, to address stark regional variations on social mobility. Its latest Insight Report outlines the impact of the partnership between the University of Lincoln, food industry employers and local schools in the Holbeach area in supporting social mobility.

In her foreword to the report, The Rt Hon Justine Greening MP said: “I’m delighted to be launching this report with the University of Lincoln. The work that they are doing, from sponsoring an academy chain to capitalising on existing local industries to provide training, is a shining example of how a 21st century university can and should operate. I hope it can inspire a wider Higher Education sector that is uniquely placed to effect real, positive change in communities across the country.”

The Lincolnshire Educational Trust now offers education to more than 2,500 young people across five schools in the South Holland area, from primary school age through to PhD level study, with its provision spanning academic and vocational qualifications, including a suite of degree apprenticeships. A new Government-backed Food Enterprise Zone is now being built in the area with the University of Lincoln its first tenant.

Professor Toby Wilkinson, Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln, said: “Working in partnership with the community and businesses in the south of Lincolnshire, the University of Lincoln is committed to enhancing educational opportunity, supporting innovation, and creating pathways into highly-skilled employment for local people. We hope that this report will encourage other universities to develop their civic role, connecting private and public sectors and all parts of the educational ecosystem to enhance social mobility in their regions.”

The report – which features case studies of local students who are now employed in successful careers in the food manufacturing sector – concludes with a series of recommendations, including that university rankings should place greater weight on universities impact in tackling social mobility ‘cold spots’ via partnerships with local schools and employers.

You can view the report in full on the Social Mobility Pledge website.